Sep 30, 2012

Enforced internet holiday

You may or may not have noticed the crickets chirping and the tumble weeds blowing through.  I am currently experiencing severe Internet issues.  Last time it was Optus, who took a week to realise that yes the tower near where I lived was damaged due to high winds.  A week after that was all fixed and I was happy blogging tweeting and skyping away, I

a) Discovered and cleared a Trojan off my computer
b) Started experiencing gradually degrading Internet speeds now at about .10mb/s

The connection speed could be attributed to the aftermath of the Trojan  but my money's still on Optus being the problem or the USB perhaps?

So until this problem is resolved it will be quiet around here.


Sep 26, 2012

Rock Jocks – The Movie

I can’t quite believe that I know the director of this film1.  Congratulations to Paul Seetachitt  for getting all famous and directing his first feature film.

You might recognise some famous faces like Felicia Day, Jason Mewes (Jay from Jay and Silent Bob), Robert Picardo (Star Trek) and Doug Jones (Abe from Hellboy)

Checkout the official website here.

1.   Paul and I used to train together in Tae Kwon do during his previous job as [redacted]


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Sep 25, 2012

This writer’s life update

seanandSome astute and attentive readers (hi Mum and Dad) may remember that I attended the Short Story course run by the wonderful Lisa L Hannett over the past fortnight.

IT WAS A BLAST

Though the early mornings ( I had a three hour drive to the course) and the bad nights sleep due to excitement had me zombie-fied by the end of the day.

This Saturday gone was the last of the workshop days and really the business end of things.  Lisa had the delightful task of critiquing seventeen short stories in the space of two weeks.  While the rest of us were broken into groups and had to read and critique the 4 other members work.

I realised two things:

1) A writer really needs this sort of experience /methodology built into their writing.

2) There are some damn fine talented writers out there and some stories I want to see published.

My group consisted of people who had; previously had flash fiction published, had plays published and performed, were being mentored by a well known Australian novelist.

So no pressure right?

My story attracted some really good critiques from Lisa and the group and now I just have to glue my bum to the seat and get on with the task of really shaping this story into something that I will be proud of.

The other benefit was meeting likeminded people with diverse reading and life experience and making connections.

Thanks to the SA Writer’s Centre and Lisa Hannett for putting on the course.


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Pre-season Last Short Story- Episode 2: After, Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling eds

 

Cover of After, Datlow & WindlingI think the concept of turning the Not if You Were the Last Short Story on Earth project into a podcast was a stroke of brilliance.  The idea of brining in extra commentators to combat burnout and keep opinions and tone diverse, even more so.

Mondy and Jonathan have been podcasting a pre-season, a testing of the waters, so to speak.  Personally, I think they could just do away with the concept of a preseason and just go with it.  I think the concept is good.  I am already more inclined to listen and checkout short works when presented in this medium.

In this episode Jonathan and Mondy are joined by original co-conspirator, Tansy Rayner Roberts in discussing the collection After by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling.

You can play direct from the player below or download here
 

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Sep 24, 2012

The Writer & the Critic - Episode 23

PD*3141165This cast sees the return of Mondy and Kirstyn from a long break - they have secretly been duping us with a series of pre-recorded podcasts done around the time of Continuum.

In this episode they cover Kate Forsyth’s Bitter Greens (which I reviewed here) and Lavie Tidhar’s Osama,  along with the usual banter that we have come to love them for. 

You can play direct below or you can download it here.

They also give us a heads up on the ebooks they are going to be covering for the Writer and Critic eBook Extravaganza.

For detailed show notes go to the podbean site.

PS I also get a mention for the interview I did with Kate Forsyth so this episode comes with bonus Bookonaut.


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Book Review– Lady of the Shades by Darren Shan.

lady-of-the-shades

Lady of the Shades is Darren Shan’s return to writing for adults. Shan is more well known for his children's  series Cirque Du Freak and Demonata, but has previously written The City trilogy for adults and mature teens.

Lady of the Shades is a standalone title and skirts the edges of a number of genres, making it an interesting and enjoyable piece with wide appeal.

The Times lauded it as “Utterly unputdownble”, an appellation or sentiment much overused in the marketing of books. It was, however, a very quick and enjoyable read for me.

Ed, an American author on the hunt for a story for his next book, arrives in London looking for inspiration. A stranger in a strange city, he's haunted by a deadly secret that refuses to stay buried and no matter how hard he tries he cannot escape the manifest sins of his past.

What Ed wants is answers, what he finds is something he definitely didn't bargain for: the beautiful and untouchable Andeanna Menderes. Andeanna is a woman who is dangerously bound to one of London's most notorious crime lords and if they are caught together it could mean death for them both.

Ensnared in an illicit affair that can only be conducted in the shadows, Ed's world is turned upside down as a series of shattering revelations blurs the line between what's real and what's not...[source: paperback blurb]

Apart from the prologue, the novel is delivered in the first person.  It’s a choice that I think works well if the author is trying to play on the possibility that the ghosts are just a figment of the protagonist’s imagination or an indicator of their state of mind.

I like stories that leave the reader unsure of the reality of ghosts and Shan performs a great balancing act with between the mundane and paranormal elements, to keep the reader on edge and guessing right until the last chapter. 

I thought I had the mystery figured out about three quarters of the way through the novel but Shan was practised enough to make me doubt myself and keep reading with a keen desire to know the ending.

The action is fast paced and brutal the mystery elements well constructed. Whether you are a fan of crime, mystery or ghost stories it will be a compelling read. On the strength of this work I am inclined to check out Darren’s other novels.

This book was provided by the publisher at no cost to myself.


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Official Hobbit Trailer–Part 2

I have just watched the second official trailer for the hobbit movie coming out in December.  Now while most of it looks cool, I can’t help but think that there’s some comedy padding added in to help extend the story. 
How do you feel?  I‘m getting an inkling that there is more Peter Jackson and less Tolkien in the movie.

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Sep 23, 2012

Midnight and Moonshine - Adelaide Launch

moonAs there are two authors Angela Slatter and Lisa L. Hannett it’s only fitting that there should be two launches, they aforementioned Brisbane Launch and the better one, which will be in Adelaide (better because I will be there of course).

Time und Date:

Friday, December 14, 2012 at 6pm.

Location:

SA Writers’ Centre, 2nd floor, 187 Rundle Street, Adelaide, South Australia

Honoured Guests and Ceremonial Launchers:

Kirstyn McDermott and Jason Nahrung.

RSVP 

editor@ticonderogapublications.com by December 3.


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Sep 19, 2012

Book Review–Alice in Zombieland by Gena Showalter

alice-in-zombielandYou might be mistaken for thinking that Alice in Zombieland is another of those faddish hacks of copyright free classic literature.  You’ll be relived to know its not.

While it does tip its hat several times to the classic, it is very much its own tale.  Alice in Zombieland is an “action and romance lite” book aimed at the teen market and chiefly the female portion of it.

While clearly not being the target market for Harlequin Teen, being closer to 40 than to 15 and male, I didn’t find it a chore to read. 

Had anyone told Alice Bell that her entire life would change course between one heartbeat and the next, she would have laughed. From blissful to tragic, innocent to ruined? Please. But that's all it took. One heartbeat. A blink, a breath, a second, and everything she knew and loved was gone. Her father was right. The monsters are real.

To avenge her family, Ali must learn to fight the undead. To survive, she must learn to trust the baddest of the bad boys, Cole Holland. But Cole has secrets of his own, and if Ali isn't careful, those secrets might just prove to be more dangerous than the zombies.

Considering it’s written in first person, from the point of view of a 16 year girl, Showalter’s done an excellent job of varying action and introspection, dialogue and description.  At no time did I feel trapped inside the head of the most boring teen on earth.

I have described it as “action lite”, for aside from one particular scene, the action and the violence lacks a sense of verisimilitude. I never get a sense of horror, visceral or emotional.  To be fair, it’s a teen novel and I think this is a deliberate choice by Showalter.

The romance is tame too, a little sexual tension, a lot of heavy breathing and petting and a definite suggestion that teens should be “safe” when exploring their sexuality in both the physical and emotional sense.

I found the Zombies and their raison d'ĂȘtre a little weak and two dimensional for my tastes - being that of an experienced speculative fiction reader.  For your average teen just looking for a hero to smack down some <insert evil monster here> and experience some vicarious romance it’s quite good.  Think Buffy the Vampire slayer as opposed to Dracula.

Alice Bell our protagonist, is strong and forthright, but still occasionally vulnerable.  I get a sense of a well rounded teen and a good role model.  She’s young woman who is prepared to challenge the male lead in the story.

I’d recommend Alice in Zombieland for the 13 to 16 age bracket.  It’s not that sort of young adult book that will have the depth that older, more experienced readers are looking for.

This ARC was provided to me at no cost by the publisher.

Released in paperback in October 2012


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Sep 18, 2012

Galactic Chat 15: Tor Roxburgh


GCLogoThis week  I  interview Australian Fantasy novelist Tor Roxburgh, author of The Light Heart of Stone.

Tor has long history in publishing Non-Fiction and Teen romance but Light Heart of Stone sees her delving into her life long love of fantasy and science fiction. 

ABC Radio Ballarat said of The Light Heart of Stone, that It’s very Australian. A lot of fantasy novels are very European, even very British… but this is very much Australian.” 

In the podcast Tor and I discuss the journey from traditional publishing to self publishing, the Australian themes that flow through The Light Heart of Stone and the fresh and engaging ideas that make the book an original work of Australian fantasy fiction.


Tor can be found online at The Light Heart of Stone website or on Twitter.

You can play from the player below or download here.


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Sep 17, 2012

Coode Street 116 - An exhausted genre ?

itunescoodestreetJust a shout out for this particular edition of Coode Street starring Paul Kincaid whose article,"The Widening Gyre" in the LA Review of Books sparked some discussion around whether or not the genre of science fiction is exhausted.

Well worth a listen.

 
Download here.

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Endings and Beginnings

Tomorrow sees the beginning of the last week of my contract as part-time teacher librarian, it’s bittersweet in some respects.  I have enjoyed the job, the school and the kids but it’s the end of term and I am feeling tired. 
Next term sees my return to the relief teaching pool.  Not a fact I greet with any great joy. If you remember the shite that you heaped on relief teachers when you were at school, things haven’t changed.
Actually  they have, I never called a relief teacher the names I’ve been called. 
It’s a job that requires a certain amount emotional distance (for self preservation’s sake) from the students that you have to simultaneously watch over/engage/attempt to teach all without the usual benefit of being a cornerstone of their lives.
You get the constant passive aggressive conflict mixed with the occasional “ F*ck of you c*nt” thrown in just to keep things interesting.
Frankly, if shovelling shit paid as much as relief teaching I’d happily wade knee deep through crap.
But with endings come new beginnings.
***
I finished the rough draft of short story Saturday for the workshop with Lisa Hannett  that I mentioned here. It will be critiqued by Lisa and my peers in the course this week. 
It may not seem like much, especially for some of my readers who are experienced authors and short story writers, but it’s the first decent work of fiction I have completed to draft 1 stage since 1990. Frankly everyone could tell me its shite and I’d be happy just to have proven to myself that I could do it again. 
Thankfully, having passed it out to an Alpha reader who is not related to me, and who has some pretty good story cred herself, it came back with some good constructive criticism and a suggestion to polish it up and consider submitting it for publication.
So despite the creative soul baring that I am going to engage in at the weekend I am feeling a little excited, the holidays and a bottle of red might also have something to do with that.
***
The end of the contract also means that I am likely to have more time to review and interview and I feel like I’d like to ramp things up.  I already have some interviews pencilled in for Galactic Chat.  But I want to do more.  So I have some ideas that are kicking around in the brain pan.

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Sep 16, 2012

Galactic Suburbia 68 – Post Hugo debrief

galsubjokeWell it’s post-Hugos and the women of Galactic Suburbia have vowed to step bravely once more unto the breach next year.  Episode 68 sees them talking about the Hugos, where Tansy relates the nights events including the Ustream foul-up in the middle of Neil Gaiman’s acceptance speech. Alex discovers the wonders of early Star Wars novelisations and Alisa joins another cult.

Enjoy from the player below or download here


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Sunday afternoon links:

shot_1347775898037I appear to have reliable internets again (knocks wood) so here were some links I managed to snare while chasing a signal in the back paddock.

First is Jim Hines, who displays the skill and thoughtfulness that saw him win the  Hugo Best Fan Writer Category this year in:  Crap people say about sexual harassment.  It’s a round up of the types of discussions that occur when we try and discount the significance of harassing behaviour- especially at conventions. 

From various posts and conversations around the internet…

“If you obviously can’t handle the social interactions at an SF Book con, then perhaps you need to seek some education … I suggest that you never, ever leave the confines of white, educated middle class North American society. In Nigeria and Saudi Arabia they take people like you and kill them with rocks.”

  1. The assumption that “people like you” are treated even worse in some other part of the world does not mean you should just shut up and accept how you’re treated here.
  2. If we’re taking “people like you” to mean “women,” then guess what — white, middle class North Americans kill an obscene number of women too.
  3. I suppose harassment and even assault could technically be defined as “social interactions,” but trying to normalize this kind of behavior and suggest that anyone who isn’t tough enough to take it should just stay away? Yeah, bite me. [read on]

You should read the comments too as they are mostly articulate and civil.

Along similar themes is an article by Rose Fox who was part of the team that rectified the Readercon debacle.  Rose calls into question two things; how we should approach the running of conventions (ie professional/business like) and that in harassment cases their seems to be far to much emphasis on the perpetrator.

Please check out  What Conventions Are and Aren’t.

…Conventions are not communities in the traditional sense of the word. They are not townships. The conchair is not the mayor; the head of safety or security is not the chief of police; the concom and the board are not tribunals or juries. The organizing bodies are not directly or representationally elected and are almost never demographically representative of the convention-attending population.

I think that treating conventions as in some way parallel to real-world communities governed by law is a really bad idea, especially when we get into these crime-and-punishment discussions. Conventions are not in the business of dispensing justice. They aren’t designed for it or equipped for it, and no one–especially not anyone involved in running a convention–should behave as though they are, even for a moment. [Read on]

If you have ever been confused about the male gaze and it’s relationship to writing, I encourage you to read Kate Elliot’s guest post at SF Signal : The Omniscient Breasts: The Male Gaze Through Female Eyes.  It’s equally good for male and female writers.

My reading experience of fantasy & science fiction over forty years is that it is mostly written with the male gaze. By this I don’t mean it is written from the point of view of a male character, although that is often the case. Nor am I speaking about the gender of the writer: a  male writer does not automatically write every line of every book with a male gaze just because he is a man; in fact, a male writer can write with a female gaze, and women can (and often do) write with a male gaze. [Read On]

And last a reminder to pick up Rabia Gale’s post apocalyptic, cyborg infused Rapunzel tale, Wired, while its free on Smashwords.


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Sep 14, 2012

Total Recall – or We can remember it for you wholesale.

So I am reading Total Recall, the movie tie-in collection of Phillip K Dick’s short stories.  Included in that volume is the story that gave birth to that cheesy 90’s film Total Recall staring Mr Scwartznegger.

In case you haven’t seen it in a while:

I watched it recently and it’s aged quite a bit, the cinematography and the special effects.  But I have a soft spot for Arnie.

I had never read the short story that inspired this movie.  It was, after all published in 1966. 

It was interesting reading- a weird mix of futuristic ideas that don’t seem out too out of place in current sci-fi, some sexual objectification masquerading as edgy futuristic sexual freedom, and some downright funny juxtapositions like typewriters and handwritten cheques in a business that is manipulating/implanting memories and a world in which travel to Mars is regular.

Mind you we went to the moon in 1969 in a glorified tin can so…

We can remember it for you wholesale was nominated for a Nebula, but I find it a fairly ordinary piece of writing stylistically and the ending, well …hokey/trite ?

This year sees the release of a redux of Total Recall, which I suspect might be closer to the original story in its execution.  I haven’t seen it but Grant and Sonya at Bad Film diaries have and they offer a review here.

Out of the 1990’s version and the short story I still favour the Austrian juggernaut.


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Sep 13, 2012

Midnight and Moonshine Launch

moonListen up you Brisbane peeps, Angela Slatter and Lisa L Hannett will be launching their book Midnight and Moonshine published by Ticonderoga in your town on the eve of Friday 30th November at the wonderful Avid Reader in West End - 193 Boundary Street,  West End QLD 4101

Launching will be the wonderful Kate Eltham, Brisbane Writers Festival CEO.

Go over to Angela’s blog for the details.  And be prepared to book early.

 


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Coode Street–The Post Hugo Edition

So it looks like I have some internets back just as my regular podcasts roll out their shows.

itunescoodestreetNow the gents at Coode Street rolled out their post Hugo podcast.  They promised us interviews with various dignitaries and we got Gary and Jonathan.

Ah well it was a good show anyway with some nice commentary on the winners, and some further discussion prompted by Paul Kincaid on the exhausted status of Science Fiction.

Jonathan and Gary momentarily consider campaigning for a Hugo next year and then realise they can’t be stuffed.

You can play direct form the flash player below or download here.


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Sep 11, 2012

Pyrotechnicon Giveaway

pyroPyrotechnicon, written by Adam Browne and published by Coeur De Lion is being offered as a giveaway on Goodreads click here to enter.

It costs nothing to enter and it looks like a hoot.

I have a copy for review so somewhere in the next couple of weeks I hope to bring you some insight.

Cyrano de Bergerac: lover, poet, inventor, swordsman — man of ferocious blade and pretty talent. Now it can be told: his final, most daring adventure — a fight to the death against the dread Master of Secrets, with the life of his beloved Roxane in the balance.

Browne has already received praise from some quality peeps in Sci-fi circles:

‘A rich dessert of a novel, filled with finely crafted wit and adventure — Adam Browne has resurrected Cyrano in fine form. Delightful!’

Greg Bear — Hugo and Nebula award-winning science fiction author


‘The title does not mislead. PYROTECHNICON is a literary cabinet of curiosities filled with lush imagery and exotic notions. A delicious concoction of swashbucklery and delight. Highly recommended.’

Jeff Vandermeer — World Fantasy award-winning author of Finch

The book can be purchased in both Hardcover and ebook from the publisher.


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Sep 10, 2012

Continued Silence but not the Zombie Apocalypse

Well it's not the Zombie Apocalypse, but it seems the wild storms we had that came through the state last week may have affected my local Optus tower.  Not that Optus or my provider have given me that info.

No.  I had to rely on regular bush telegraph for that.

Internode, my current provider insisted that I take my laptop to another location.  So I wearily trundled off to work this morning, laptop in tow, to test the signal at the Library.  Now I usually operate the modem their without a an external antenna as the library is about 2km from  the tower and I get full reception.

So I fired up the laptop and... no signal.  Which was the good news...I think.

So the two possibilities were that:

a) my modem was stuffed
b) that the nearest tower is having issues

After ringing Internode and letting them know I had tested the laptop in a new location, their course of action was still to send me out a replacement modem and antenna as they suggested it maybe malfunctioning.

So I was quietly confident that maybe all was not lost that I wouldn't have to be gouged by Telstra for their service, or worse still have to rely on satellite internet.

Then chatting as one does with library visitors, I discovered that a number of people in town on Southern Phone, a company that uses Optus, have had issues since Saturday and as of today have not been able to get service at all.

Apprently Optus know about the issue but have neglected to inform any of the other services that use the tower.

So now I am quitely confident that the issue has nothing to do with my equipment.  But until the issue is rectified things will be quiet around here.  Until the weekend I suspect.

Sep 8, 2012

Unintentional Silence

vampirehouseIt’s amazing how having no internet connection feels like having ones arm cut off.  Ok, well maybe it doesn’t quite but you get the picture.  I live on a farm, a lovely rural setting.  It’s generally quiet, except around harvest and wonder of wonders we can actually get the internet here (mobile 3g). 

So for 3 years it’s been pretty ideal.  I use Skype to talk to my far flung family, watch ABC IView, keep my finger on the pulse of what’s happening in Australian Spec Fic land.

Not as of Thursday though.

My first thought was Zombie Apocalypse, when I couldn’t get a signal in the man cave/library.  On rare occasions when I have had signal issues before the usual fix has been to move locations to the back room or more drastically, sit outside (thank goodness for lap tops eh). The problem usually rectifies itself anyway.

So its Saturday night and I have:

  • uninstalled/reinstalled the USB dongle
  • wondered round the back paddock
  • called the Internet company and asked if said Zombie Apocalypse had happened
  • been informed that rumours of a Zombie Apocalypse are highly overstated and that being 17km from the mobile tower I shouldn’t be getting a signal anyway(theoretically)

Apparently everything seems to be running fine on their end. But they have sent me a new dongle and asked me to test the laptop in another location, before they ring Optus and ask them to check their tower.

So other than weep for the loss of modern convenience I have also attended a short story workshop with Lisa Hannett as lecturer.  It’s a two day course split over two weeks and I am hoping to have a finished and critiqued story at the end of it.

I should use the time productively and write.

Fingers crossed this message gets through.


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Sep 5, 2012

Indigenous Literacy - Booktopia With Free Shipping

among_othersIn honour of Indigenous Literacy Day Booktopia are donating all their profits from the 5th September to the Indigenous Literacy Project.

The also offer free shipping up until Friday midnight if you type the word READING into the appropriate coupon field.

Note: profit from Items purchased Thursday and Friday don’t go towards the literacy project.

Stuck for some ideas to buy your Specfic loving friends?

You could go local and pick some Sean Williams - always a proud supporter of Indigenous Australian Literacy.

or perhaps you could go with recent Nebula and Hugo award winning best novel Among Others by Jo Walton.

Or you could support Indigenous Australian Writers and purchase works by Kim Scott or Anita Heiss.


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Sep 3, 2012

Christian School give Harry Potter the Expelliamus

This may be embarrassing for the liberal Christians among you or those who have a modern Christian outlook. Or who can tell fiction from non-fiction.

From the SMH again:

MEDOWIE Christian School in the Hunter has defended a decision to ban all witches and warlocks from its annual Book Week parade and the Harry Potter series from the school library.

The school was one of many that marked Book Week recently by asking children to dress up as their favourite book character for a parade.

Read more:

 

So a tale in which a small boy whose parents are killed, but who uses special powers to defeat their killer and the great evil of the world is not okay, but characters from Star Wars are?.

I know its the witches word isn’t it.  Cause you know Medowie believe in

  • the existence of Satan and the reality of spiritual warfare. (not metaphorically, for realz)
  • the jurisdiction of civil authorities except in matters conflicting with the
    biblical witness and/or conscience

I wonder if they follow the direction put down in Deuteronomy 21:18-21 or conduct corporal punishment?

I guess they aren’t gay friendly either ( apart from love the sinner hate the sin). If it was me I’d be checking their science curriculum around evolution and global warming.

Oh and this was a pearler:

In respecting that right [we] do not stock books from the Harry Potter series, or indeed other titles which are the subject of polarising public discussion.

Yes don’t let the kiddies read anything that might get them to inspire or question. I wonder what the senior curriculum is like.  No Macbeth?


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New Dr Who breaks IView viewing record

According to the SMH:

The cashed-up commercial TV sector is the loudest voice in the room when it comes to complaining about piracy. To the government. To internet service providers. And to their audience.

But on the weekend it was the humble national broadcaster, our dear old Aunty, that took the fight to the pirates and won.

The ABC's decision to launch the new series of Doctor Who via its iView online platform a week before airing it on TV has paid dividends.

Read more:

Yes, if you give the consumer what they want for a reasonable price and via a platform that is convenient.  They will use your service.


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Hugo Awards 2012–The show goes on


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Sep 2, 2012

Book Review–The Price of Fame by R.C. Daniells

price

The Price of Fame is Rowena Cory Daniells’ first foray into paranormal crime fiction - hence the slight variation on her name. 

It’s a book that’s had a long gestation, something like 20 years, a labour of love, a book waiting to find the right time and the right publisher.

I am an unabashed fan of Rowena’s fantasy titles, I devour them in an afternoon if I’m not careful.  Her pacing’s spot on, characters are  well developed, and she possesses that skill many aspire to- the ability to create a book that you are reluctant to put down.

But that’s Fantasy and switching genre’s means you are stepping into a milieu that has slightly different rules and expectations.  Add to this the knowledge that I am a big ‘S’ skeptic and that my preference, if I have any, for paranormal fiction is that it either plays it totally fantastical (e.g. Burn Mark) where you accept the premise of witches, warlocks and psychics or you play it gritty and realistic with the suggestion, the possibility, the merest hint that something paranormal is going on.

The Verdict

Short version – I read it two sittings, getting sunburnt because I couldn’t but the book down.

Longer Version - Daniell’s plays it pretty straight from the beginning.  We have a documentary maker, Antonia Carlyle, trying to track down old members of the famous Tough Romantics, a punk rock band from the 1980’s.  She’d determined to uncover the reality of the band before they achieved fame, before their singer Genevieve James was murdered by a jealous taxi driver Peter O’Toole. 

Only a witness, steps forward 25 years later with a story that may exonerate O’Toole.  

Daniells uses first person point of view to good effect in The Price of Fame cutting between Antonia and the murderer, Peter O’Toole’s story written by the reclusive writer and witness who befriended him. It allows Daniells to vary the pace and prevents the reader from getting tired of being in Antonia’s head all the time.  The technique also allows the reader to observe personalities common to both time periods in a slightly different light.  It also gives us intimacy.

I have only ever been to the trendy version of St Kilda and so have no real life experience to compare Daniells recreation of 1980’s St Kilda to, but she created a palpable and believable, crime and drug ridden inner city suburb that any city dwelling reader could surely find a reference to.

With or without restless spirits

The writing and the pacing, overrode my aversion to  “psychic energies”, the characters were real, the ending a mix of triumph and sadness.  While I think The Price of Fame is a one shot, I hope Daniells decides to play in the crime fiction sandpit again. I’ll read it with or without restless sprits. 

You’ll note the absence of a “tramp stamped” vixen on the cover. I think it frames the book well -  I heartily recommend it if your preferences are towards realism with a slice of the fantastic.

This book was provided to me by the author.


awwc2012_thumb[1]This review is part of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2012.  Please check out this page for more great writing from Australian women.

 

 


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Sep 1, 2012

Book Review–Vengeance by Ian Irvine

vengeanceI wanted to like this book. 

I interviewed Ian Irvine for the Galactic Chat podcast and have since met him in person – he’s a gentleman.  Which makes having to review this book difficult because my desire to like a fantasy by an Australian author comes up against the book itself. 

We didn’t get along, Vengeance and me.

 

Character

It began with the characters.  I didn’t feel drawn to any of them and for the life of me I am unsure as to why? There’s certainly enough time for the reader to explore each of them (the novel doesn’t really take off until somewhere between page 110 – 150) but none of them hooked me in. 

Tali a Pale slave girl who carries a magic pearl embedded in her brain is witness to her mother’s murder. She’s condemned to fits of anger, awakening magical ability and a desire for vengeance.  She’s a typical underdog / dispossessed noble figure that I have no trouble in going along with usually.  But I got nothing here.

Rix, son and heir of one of the wealthy up and coming houses of Hightspall is similarly a tragic figure, haunted by past horrors and emotionally crippled by nightmares. His dialog and actions seem schizophrenic – an intentional move I’d say considering what we a told about his character.  Rix felt forced to me rather than tormented.

Tobry, son of a fallen house is the character that I felt an awakening interest for.  This came from the mystery surrounding his past, the extra depth he seemed to posses displayed in a consistent portrayal of character through dialog.

The setting

Aside from the characters I didn’t really get a clear feel for the setting and that’s despite the clear thought and effort Irvine has invested in the world. 

Vengeance is a little unusual for a fantasy setting – a magical medieval world blended with a magical technological world.  The Hightspallers are your traditional fantasy kingdom and Cythonians have developed an understanding of chemistry and biology and have a distinctly mechanical worldview.

I should love this sort of thing, I dig Steampunk, and cross genre fiction.  Mentions of the Cythonian culture were replete with names like Chymister, and Alchymister. There were references to Subsisteries and other Cythonian industry intended to convey a certain feel.  But again it didn’t draw me in. 

The ecology and physical setting seems a bit at odds with your traditional fantasy too, which is probably the intention.  I think Irvine is aiming for original and distinct but falling short, for my taste at least. This strikes me most in simple things like naming conventions and place names.  To me they lack a cohesiveness or a sense of cultural verisimilitude – they don’t ring true and this drops me from the story.  We have for example place names like the Vomits, or Precipitous Crag juxtaposed with Reffering and Nyrdly.

Now I am not saying the Irvine needed to come up with 10,000 years of history and language formation to justify place names ala Tolkien but in epic fantasy more than anything else place names reflect the culture and thereby the impression you are trying to create.

In summary

Honestly I think Vengeance is aimed at a slightly less experienced readership. Irvine does tend to spell things out for the reader, motivations, emotions and the like.  This is something that I  imagine a reader with less life experience might require or appreciate, whereas older, more experienced readers will find inference to be enough. 

This book was provided to me by the publisher.


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